Owning the Pond

As I prepare for vacation, I am trying to organize my work, figuring out what I have to take along, supplying clients with hotel addresses for FedEx, and generally feeling bummed that I have to worry about work on my vacation. Ah, the joys of owning your own business.

But there are obvious benefits. I can work in my jammies. I set my own hours (though they may be longer than I like when I have a big project). I establish my own prices and get to keep all the profits. I know my own worth. It definitely makes up for the vacation-juggling issues.

I was reminded of that while reading John Perkins’ book Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development. In it he reminds us of the old “give a man a fish/teach a man to fish” principle. And how obviously the teaching is better. But then he says it’s not enough. Now, he says, we need “to ask the question: ‘Who owns the pond?'”

It’s a good question and one that has led to the rise of—and success of—microfinance in fighting poverty. When you own your own business, you’re more committed to it. You work hard. You invest in your skills and your business. You treat your customers right because you know you’ll lose them if you don’t and that affects your bottom line. You’re proud of what you accomplish.

Helping people run their own businesses can enable them to rise out of poverty, but it also provides them with dignity and allows them to serve as a role model for others. Many charities working in poverty relief allow you to fund a microloan for as little as $25. Kiva and World Vision allow you to pick the project you want to fund. World Vision provides updates on what your entrepreneur is doing. Kiva allows you to receive your money back when the loan is repaid (or you can reinvest it). Both allow you to give gift certificates so others can choose whose project to fund.

If you have a favorite microfinance site, please include it in the comments section so others know their options. Help others lift themselves out of poverty and enjoy the fruits of their own labors. They’re still a long way from having a vacation to worry about.


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